Returning OFWs to be given preference as contact tracers

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    INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said overseas Filipino Workers and employees displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic will be given preference in the hiring of additional 50,000 contact tracers.

    But Año said they need to meet basic qualification: they have to be graduates or have reached college level of allied medical or criminology courses.

    “Yes, as long as they are qualified, the OFWs will be given priority,” Año said.

    Over 200,000 OFWs have been repatriated due to the pandemic, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a virtual press briefing.

    Año said the DILG has instructed its field offences to start hiring 50,000 contact tracers to augment more than 238,000 contact tracers who are mostly volunteers.

    Año said he is hoping the Department of Budget and Management would release the needed funds this month. The recently-signed Bayanihan 2 allotted P5 billion for the additional 50,000 contact tracers.

    He said the DILG is hoping to the hire all the 50,000 within the month “so that by October, November and December, these recruits will be doing full-time contact tracing.”

    Bello said he expects some 100,000 more OFWs to return home or be repatriated in the coming months.

    He said the number could even be more if they factor in undocumented OFWs around the world.

    “We have to consider that we only monitor the documented OFWs. There are also OFWs, who are not documented,” he said, adding: “Those being repatriated on a daily basis is a minimum of 1,000 and a maximum of 3,000. They are a lot.”

    Bello said he believes that finding alternative markets for returning OFWs could be better at this time. Among the markets the Labor Department is looking at are China, Canada, Taiwan, Bahrain, and several Eastern European states. – With Gerard Naval